Thursday, June 24, 2010

Australia 2 d Serbia 1, Group D Match, Potokwame

This was a great game, the classic "game of two halves". We could hardly take a trick in the first 45 mins, and our few "shots" on target were feeble indeed. We did not look like a team that needed to kick 4 goals to stay in the tournament. Mark Schwarzer was at his very best, keeping out a few point blank shots, and winning the few times he gambled. The big threat was Crasic on the right for Serbia - he was too fast and too wily for David Carney. Once he charged into the box unaccompanied, but was pushed wide by the incredible telescopic limbs of Schwarzer. If Crasic had taken one more touch he could have walked around the prone and embarrassed keeper and scored - instead he snatched at his shot, off balance and too wide to get his angle right. Halftime still 0-0, and the simultaneous Ghana v Germany the same.

Australia gave it heaps from the restart. They look happiest when they are attacking, its a shame the next coach of the Moroccan Youth Team (for that is where Pim Verbeek is headed), did not encourage them to do it from Day 1. Timmy C scored one of those goals he so often does, a contested header right into the corner. He's not a big guy, he just has timing, quite a leap and the X factor that his teammate Josh Kennedy lacks. Kennedy stalked about up front all game, 7 foot tall but never really a threat to Serbia's world class (Manchester Utd and Udinese) central defenders. Apparently just after halftime word went around that Germany were 1-0 up on Ghana, and that spurred the flurry of attacking intent.

About eight minutes later, Jason Culina played a lovely backheel to Brett Holman (who was not in the starting lineup, strangely). Holman found himself in acres of space just inside the attacking half, took the ball forward about 15 metres, then let fly from about 40 with the vaunted defence standing off, expecting him to run at them. The keeper had no chance, Australia 2-0. It was one of the finest goals of the cup so far.

At this point the impossible dream was alive - if Australia and Germany could each conjure another goal, we would be level on points and goal difference with Ghana, and the 2nd place in the group would be decided by rock-paper-scissors, or something. Then Pantelic scored a sitter for Serbia after Schwarzer dropped a catchable ball at his feet. The End. Both teams scrambled frantically for the last few minutes - Serbia needing a win to progess, Australia needing an unprecedented salvo of goals. Neither happened, although the 3 minutes 10 seconds of injury time added on was almost cartoonish in the amount of action packed into it.

I haven't been able to use my joke about there being no Panic in the Serbian defence as he is out with a groin injury. Oh well, maybe in 2014. And the same goes for the Australians. Maybe the name "Socceroos"  can be dropped down a mineshaft, sealed in with concrete and they can go forward as "Australia" like the cricket team are happy to. And attack next time right from the start - ATTACK!

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